Georgia Douglas Johnson
Georgia Blanche Douglas Camp Johnson better known as Georgia Douglas Johnson (September 10, 1880 – May 14, 1966) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and a member of the Harlem Renaissance
Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke...


Early life and education

Johnson was born in Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

 to Laura Douglass and George Camp (her mother's last name is listed in other sources as Jackson). Her mother was of African and Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 descent, and her father was of African-American and English heritage.

Much of Johnson's childhood was spent in Rome, Georgia
Rome, Georgia
Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Rome is the largest city and the county seat of Floyd County, Georgia, United States. It is the principal city of the Rome, Georgia Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Floyd County...

. She received her education in both Rome and Atlanta, where she excelled in reading, recitations and physical education. She also taught herself to play the violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

, which developed into a lifelong love of music.

Johnson graduated from Atlanta University's Normal School in 1896. She taught school in Marietta, Georgia
Marietta, Georgia
Marietta is a city located in central Cobb County, Georgia, United States, and is its county seat.As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 56,579, making it one of metro Atlanta's largest suburbs...

 for a time, then returned to Atlanta to work as an assistant principal. Johnson then traveled to Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...

, to study piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

, harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

, and voice. From 1902 to 1903, she attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Oberlin Conservatory of Music
The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, located on the campus of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, was founded in 1865 and is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States. Students of Oberlin Conservatory enter a very broad network within the music world, as the school's alumni...


Marriage and family

On September 28, 1903, Johnson married Henry Lincoln Johnson, an Atlanta lawyer and prominent Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 party member. They had two sons, Henry Lincoln Johnson, Jr. and Peter Douglas Johnson (d. 1957).


Johnson's husband accepted an appointment as the Recorder of Deeds
Recorder of deeds
Recorder of deeds is a government office tasked with maintaining public records and documents, especially records relating to real estate ownership that provide persons other than the owner of a property with real rights over that property.-Background:...

 from United States President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States...

, and the family moved to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 in 1910. It was during this period that Johnson began to write poems and stories. Johnson credits a poem written by William Stanley Braithwaite
William Stanley Braithwaite
William Stanley Beaumont Braithwaite was an American writer, poet and literary critic.Braithwaite was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of 12, upon the death of his father, Braithwaite was forced to quit school to support his family...

 about a rose tended by a child, as her inspiration for her poems.

She began to submit her poems to newspapers and small magazines. She published her first poem in 1916 when she was thirty-six. She published four volumes of poetry, beginning in 1918 with The Heart of a Woman. Johnson also wrote songs, taught music, and performed as an organist at her Congregational church
Congregational church
Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs....


There Johnson lived for the last fifty years of her life. Johnson's husband died in 1925. She struggled at first with some temporary jobs. As a gesture of appreciation for her husband's loyalty and service to the Republican party, President Calvin Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge
John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was the 30th President of the United States . A Republican lawyer from Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor of that state...

 appointed Johnson as the Commissioner of Conciliation in the Department of Labor
United States Department of Labor
The United States Department of Labor is a Cabinet department of the United States government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re-employment services, and some economic statistics. Many U.S. states also have such departments. The...


Soon after her husband's death, Johnson began to host what became forty years of weekly "Saturday Salons", for friends and authors, including Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

, Jean Toomer
Jean Toomer
Jean Toomer was an American poet and novelist and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His first book Cane is considered by many as his most significant.-Early life:...

, Anne Spencer
Anne Spencer
Annie Bethel Spencer was an American Black poet and active participant in the New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance period....

, Richard Bruce Nugent
Richard Bruce Nugent
Richard Bruce Nugent , aka Richard Bruce and Bruce Nugent, was a writer and painter in the Harlem Renaissance.-Biography:...

, Alain Locke
Alain LeRoy Locke
Alain LeRoy Locke was an American writer, philosopher, educator, and patron of the arts. He is best known for his writings on and about the Harlem Renaissance. He is regarded as the "Father of the Harlem Renaissance"...

, Jessie Redmon Fauset
Jessie Redmon Fauset
Jessie Redmon Fauset was an American editor, poet, essayist and novelist. Fauset was most known for being the editor of the NAACP magazine the Crisis. She also was the editor and co-author for the African American children magazine called Brownies' Book...

, Angelina Weld Grimke
Angelina Weld Grimke
Angelina Weld Grimké was an African-American journalist, teacher, playwright and poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance and was one of the first African-American women to have a play performed.- Biography :...

 and Eulalie Spence
Eulalie Spence
Eulalie Spence was a African American female writer, teacher, actress and playwright from the British West Indies. She was an influential member of the the Harlem Renaissance....

— all major contributors to the New Negro Movement, which is better known today as the Harlem Renaissance
Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke...

. She was especially close to the writer Angelina Grimke. Johnson called her home the "Half Way House" for friends traveling, and a place where they "could freely discuss politics and personal opinions."

She died in Washington, D.C., in 1966.

In September 2009, it was announced that Johnson would be inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

Major works

  • The Heart of a Woman (1918)
  • Bronze (1922)
  • An Autumn Love Cycle (1928)
  • Share My World (1962)
  • A Sunday Morning in the South (1925)

Additional reading

  • Harold Bloom, ed., Black American Women Poets and Dramatists (New York: Chelsea House, 1996).
  • Countee Cullen, ed., Caroling Dusk: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1927).
  • Gloria T. Hull, Color, Sex, and Poetry: Three Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987).
  • Judith Stephens, "'And Yet They Paused' and 'A Bill to Be Passed': Newly Recovered Lynching Dramas by Georgia Douglas Johnson", African American Review 33 (autumn 1999): 519-22.
  • Judith Stephens, The Plays of Georgia Douglas Johnson:From The New Negro Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press,2006)
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